... includes more specific details for why Ballard committed to pursuing the TIGHAR / Nikumaroro hypothesis. According to this account, it had a lot to do with the Electra landing gear interpretation of the 1937 Bevington photograph.
I lobbied the Nautilus expedition via a third party and social media to take a look at Orona. My contact says that the idea was mentioned in early planning but never was included in any expedition operations. Very low chance that it will be included. I remain hopeful.
The Nautilus has been at Nikumaroro for 6 days of exploration. The ship has AIS data turned off but you can see infrequent satellite position report at vesselfinder.com. Just expand the map around the Phoenix Islands; the blue dot is the Nautilus and the pink is a sailing yacht that provides for the land based explorers.
My observation of the ships movement so far indicates they have covered most of the island reef shelf and has not lingered for any extended period of time at one location; indicates to me nothing of significance has been located. I hope Nautilus/Ballard and crew can review all the options. I hate to see them go home empty handed.
Coconut crabs play a key role in TIGHAR’s hypothesis about what happened to Amelia Earhart after she and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared on July 2, 1937, on the third-to-last leg of their world flight. The group posits that when Earhart and Noonan couldn’t find Howland, the Pacific island they were aiming for, the aviators landed instead on Nikumaroro. That island, then called Gardner, is surrounded by a reef that could serve as a rough runway. Eventually, the theory goes, Noonan died, the plane floated off the reef, and Earhart was left alone on the island.
Except for the crabs.
By 1940, the British had established a colony on the island. That year, Gerald Gallagher, the island’s colonial administrator, sent a telegram telling his superiors that a partial human skeleton had been found “which is just possibly that of Amelia Earhardt [sic].” The bones—13 in total—were sent to Fiji to be examined, and subsequently lost.
There are 206 bones in an adult human skeleton—what happened to the 193 that weren’t found? Evidence points to the coconut crabs, who have earned their nickname “robber crabs.” When Gallagher described the site of the discovery he said that “coconut crabs had scattered many bones.” The omnivorous crabs will eat coconuts (of course), fallen fruit, birds, rodents, other crabs—and carrion.
TIGHAR has performed several experiments to see if the crabs would drag bones back to their burrows. In one, they brought a pig carcass to the island and filmed what happened to it. Crabs—coconut crabs plus the smaller, more numerous strawberry hermit crabs—swarmed the body, removing most of the flesh within two weeks.
A year after the experiment they discovered some bones had been dragged 60 feet from the body, but they couldn’t account for all of the remains.
King thinks it’s likely that Earhart perished on the island as a castaway. After she died, the crabs consumed her body and dragged her bones into their burrows—except of course for the thirteen that Gallagher discovered.